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Zadar, Croatia

Pillar of Shame

Now harmless, this looming post struck fear into the heart of medieval troublemakers.  

An old, weathered pillar stands at the edge of a historic Croatian square, stained and chipped after spending centuries exposed to the elements. Hundreds of years ago, the sight of the looming pole would have been enough to strike fear deep into the heart of any troublemakers.

In the Middle Ages, the pillar was a place of punishment, earning it the nickname the “pillar of shame.” People were chained to it, then mocked, humiliated, and even whipped. These punishments would sometimes last for hours, and the whole city was welcome to stop and watch the public spectacle.

Now, though, there’s no need to feel shame or fear when approaching the pillar. Its use as a tool for public punishments is part of the past. The post blends in well with the other ancient architecture that fills the city’s third-century Roman Forum—the largest one in Croatia. The square, which was once the center of Roman life in Zadar, continued to attract its fair share of visitors from the Middle Ages up until modern times.